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Taking Stock of Stock Photo Usage, Part One - Choosing the Image You Want


Part 1 of 3 - Choosing the Image You Want [Series]

When it comes to giving your written content a little more ‘pop’ to boost engagement with your audience, one of the best things you can do is to throw a few photos in the mix. People are drawn to images, and will often read what is around them to add to the photo’s context. However, photo content of a high enough quality to share can be time-consuming to produce, and requires a certain degree of skill--and unless you happen to have a trained photographer on staff, professionals can be expensive to contract. Fortunately, there’s another option: stock photos.

If approached and implemented correctly, utilizing stock photography in your marketing can help to add that engagement. However, there are some legal concerns that you must be aware of as you go about utilizing stock photography, but we’ll discuss that more later on in this series.

There are a few things that make stock photos an attractive option for marketers. First of all, it’s a pretty easy method to adding another level of visual engagement, and secondly, there are so many stock photos out there that you can usually find something that fits the concept you’re trying to represent. However, they aren’t perfect. They don’t really represent you, after all, and therefore don’t create a personalized connection to your business and the content that they’re seen with. If your audience happens to find the same image elsewhere, the impact the image will have is reduced further. Don’t give up on stock just yet, though, as there is a way to minimize these downsides: making your stock images your own -- which will be the focus of our next installment.

The first step: making sure the image you plan to use is the right one.

Selecting the Right Image

Before anything else, you will want to make sure that the photo you use is the right one. There’s a balance to doing the best job you can at this: while you’ll want an image that clearly communicates the message you are impressing upon your audience, you also don’t want your stock image to blend in with the stock photos that are seen everywhere. This is easy enough to avoid by doing a bit of digging into both your competition’s image usage and into your preferred stock image provider’s catalogue to find the relatively unused image that fits your needs.

As you choose the image that you plan to use, it may help to keep the following considerations in mind. They can help you to make the best choice for your situation.

Location and platform considerations

  • Where do you plan to use this image?
  • How are other businesses using images on that platform? Are they included to emphasize a particular point that is made in the accompanying content, or do they depict more of a big-picture concept?
  • What kinds of images are others using? Do they feature photographs, or illustrated digital graphics?
  • Is anyone doing anything to customize the stock photos they use? (We’ll discuss this in more depth shortly.)

What are you trying to say with this image?

  • Is there a particular topic that your content references directly that is best represented by a particular image?
  • Can the image be more abstract, depicting a related scene or being more suggestive of your content’s topic, or is it more beneficial to show your audience exactly what you mean?
  • Are there any symbols that represent the main idea of your topic? If you’re discussing a broader concept, they can help your audience quickly recognize what your content discusses.

Keep in mind, this image is supposed to be indicative of your brand -- you want your audience to think of you when they see it. However, many companies utilize stock photo images, which means that your use of one could easily be spotted if you aren’t careful. To avoid stock image overlap, don’t be afraid to dig in a few pages in your results when you seek out your image. It isn’t very common for anyone to look more than a few pages past the first one. This means you will likely find an image a few pages back in the results that has gone relatively unused by those running a similar search, instead of used to death.

Once you’ve found a stock image that fits and is suited to your intended use, you can begin to make it a little more your own. Stay tuned for our next installment, where we’ll discuss how to do so. In the meantime, we’re available to answer any questions you have about utilizing stock photography, or any other marketing-related concerns you have. Let us know what we can do to help by reaching out.

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